Dry or Dehydrated Skin? Here’s How To Know Which One You Have

March 07, 2019
Dry or Dehydrated Skin? Here’s How To Know Which One You Have

When it comes to figuring out whether your skin is just dry or if it’s dehydrated, your dermis may be sending mixed messages. You might have flaky texture, or the appearance of your skin might be dull, but how do you know how to help manage it if you’re unsure of what it is? We tapped dermatologist Papri Sarkar, M.D., who’s based in Brookline, Mass. to give us the real deal on the differences between dry and dehydrated skin. She broke down exactly what to look for to help determine which one you may have — so before you slather on that oil or moisturizer, read this.

How to Know If You Have Dry Skin

“The difference between dry and dehydrated skin depends on its behavior at baseline,” says Dr. Sarkar. “Dry skin normally has less oil at baseline, and if you have dry skin, you’ll know it because it tends to be flaky, itchy and superficially slough off.” Oil, adds Dr. Sarkar, is an integral part of skin structure and helps the skin keep its skin barrier function intact. “It helps to keep the outside out and protect the important components on the inside,” she says. Because of this, it is actually more common for dry skin to become dehydrated because when the oily skin barrier is not as strong, we lose moisture, which is a hallmark of dehydrated skin.

The Dry Skin Regimen

Because oil is the missing key component in dry skin, cleansing with oil cleansers and using face oils should be a vital part of your routine, according to Dr. Sarkar. “Oil or balm cleansers are a great way to remove your makeup but still have a non-dry palette to work with,” she says. Her pro tip is to add a few drops of facial oil into your regular, occlusive moisturizer that will help lock in hydration.

How to Know If You Have Dehydrated Skin

Unlike dry skin, dehydrated skin may be dry, normal or oily, but it has less water than normal. “Dehydrated skin tends to be dull, isn’t plump and lacks skin turgor,” she says. This means that you won’t necessarily have flaky or itchy texture — instead, your skin will look dull and feel lacking due to too little moisture.

The Dehydrated Skin Regimen

If your skin is dehydrated, Dr. Sarkar recommends adding a hyaluronic serum into your regimen.  We recommend the L’Oréal Paris 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum or CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum to keep the moisture flowing. “Humidifiers are also great for dehydrated skin because they replenish the dry, winter or heated air that wicks moisture from us,” she says.

What to Avoid If You Have Either

Once you’ve determined whether you have dry or dehydrated skin — or both! — Dr. Sarkar suggests that there are certain things that you should completely avoid. “For both of these skin types, irritants can have more of an effect than when the skin is normal,” she says, “so you want to avoid over-exfoliating or potential irritants like tea tree oil.”

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